IMPORTANT UPDATE (12/30/21 @ 4:00PM PST) – The CDC has just raised the cruise health threat from level 3 to level 4.
The Center For Disease Control (CDC) has updated its weekly list of high-risk countries. Many popular European countries have remained at or moved up to the very high-risk, level 4 countries. This week, the number 2 visited country in Europe, Spain remains elevated to level 4. Level 4 countries have increased substantially this week. Cruise ships have been turned around or denied disembarkation due to onboard Covid cases. The list of country designations continues to be a moving target with some countries moving up the list and some moving down to lower categories.
A Perfect Storm And Travel Bans In Europe
Both the Delta and Omicron variants continue to surge in Europe.
Tourist travel to and from Europe is getting harder. This is especially true regarding travel in Europe to and from the United Kingdom. France has banned all non-essential travel to and from the U.K.
The Netherlands instituted a strict lockdown that began Sunday, December 19, 2021. This action closed nonessential shops, hospitality venues and cultural institutions.
Last week, Spain has been elevated to level 4 status. Spain has been the number 2 in Europe for tourism. Spain reported 99,671 new cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday, the highest number for a single day since the start of the pandemic. It’s double the previous record set just last week, the country’s Health Ministry said. Madrid’s New Years Eve celebration will go ahead as planned.
These countries have seen new record number of Covid cases:
- The United Kingdom has seen a 25% increase in hospitalizations over the past week.
Finland announced Tuesday it is tightening entry into the country, requiring proof of vaccination against Covid-19 or full recovery from the virus within the past six months.
“Internal border control will be reinstated at Finland’s borders starting on Tuesday 28 December. There will also be other changes to the restrictions on entry, and as of 28 December, the same restrictions will apply to everyone arriving in Finland from abroad,” the Finnish interior ministry said in a news release, adding that the new measures will be implemented until Jan. 16, 2022.
“Internal border control will be reinstated for traffic between Finland and all Schengen countries. In addition, entry restrictions and health security measures will be tightened so that from Tuesday 28 December onwards, all passengers arriving in Finland from abroad will be required to present proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or proof of recovery from COVID-19 within the past six months, along with a certificate of a negative COVID-19 test taken less than 48 hours prior to arrival,” the statement continued.
Travel restrictions continue to change in Europe. Be sure to visit the government travel websites of the countries that you plan to visit for up-to-date entry requirements. Many European countries have digital health pre-clearance forms that need to be submitted prior to your departure to those countries.
Americans Returning To the United States
If you are an American who is not vaccinated, returning to the United States will get more complicated. The new travel rules will make two significant changes:
- The testing window for return Covid testing will be reduced from three days down to one day. This means a Covid test was conducted 24 hours prior to departure.
- Unvaccinated travelers will be required to test again after they return to the United States. Where and when this test is to be performed has yet to be decided.
Here is the text from the CDC on testing prior to returning to the United States:
All air passengers 2 years or older with a flight departing to the US from a foreign country at or after 12:01am EST (5:01am GMT) on December 6, 2021, are required show a negative COVID-19 viral test result taken no more than 1 day before travel, or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days, before they board their flight.
The new testing window for unvaccinated Americans can be problematic because you will need an approved test with a fast turnaround time for the results. You will have to show proof of a negative Covid test prior to boarding your flight.
Requirement for Proof of Negative COVID-19 Test or Recovery from COVID-19 for All Air Passengers Arriving in the United States can be found here.
River And Ocean Cruises
The CDC now puts cruise ships in a level 3 category. This level applies to all cruises whether they are ocean or river cruises.
At least four ocean cruise ships were recently turned away from ports or were denied disembarking of passengers due to onboard cases of Covid.
Mexico will allow cruise ships with Covid-19 positive passengers to disembark. Mexico will provide medical assistance for those passengers needing it.
“In accordance with the biosafety protocols established in the national and international spheres, the Government of Mexico will receive in its maritime ports cruise ships that request to dock in our country,” the statement said.
Countries Moving Up To Level 4
Destinations that fall into the “Covid-19 very high” Level 4 category have had more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days, according to CDC parameters. The Level 3 category applies to destinations that have had between 100 and 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days.
Many popular countries have either initiated restrictions or will be implementing restrictions. Be sure to check on countries that you plan to visit for current or pending restrictions.
These countries continue to remain at level 4. The main reason this has happened is that the CDC has received more complete data on the actual conditions in those countries.
- United Kingdom
Here are popular countries remaining or moving to level 4. Many of the latest countries that remain at level 4 are the most popular vacation destinations in the Caribbean, Europe and the Middle East due to a surge in the Delta variant and now Omicron as well.
- South Africa
More than 90 countries in total are classified as level 4 status this week.
These Countries Have Moved To Level 3
Two countries on the list this week have either improved or were downgraded. They are:
- Argentina – previously level 2
- Brunei – previously level 4
Countries That Have Changed To Level 2
- Cuba – previously level 3
- Gabon – previously level 3
- Guatemala – previously level 3
Countries Now Reported At Level 1
- Sao Tome and Principe
Popular Countries With Unknown Risks
The following countries have insufficient data for the CDC to assign a risk level:
- French Polynesia
- New Caledonia
CDC guidance for Level 3 and Level 4 destinations urges unvaccinated travelers to avoid nonessential travel to those locations. The CDC also recommends avoiding all international travel until you are fully vaccinated.
The Full List And Travel Advisories
The full list along with travel advisories from the CDC can be found here. This list changes weekly so it might be a site to add to your travel bookmarks.
All air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before they board a flight to the United States. See the Frequently Asked Questions for more information.
The list of countries that the CDC maintains continues to change every week as more data is known. Some countries have improved and some have declined. Some countries including the United States improve and then fall into a state of decline. This CDC list and advisories are posted to help you make an educated decision on whether to travel or not.